Beware of the run-away shopping cart

Published 6:48 pm Tuesday, October 24, 2023

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Sometimes I wonder if some people are just plain lazy or maybe their mama didn’t raise ‘em right.

I’m a frequent visitor to the various retail outlets and grocery stores (for full disclosure, Piggly Wiggly of Ahoskie is my supermarket of choice). Recently, I found myself at one of our local big box stores to purchase some items that they offer at the best prices around. Of course, my visit coincided with the first of the month and it seemed everyone in the county was there at the same location.

As I searched for a parking spot, I noticed there were shopping carts left all over the parking lot. And, just my luck, most of the carts had found a home in the empty parking spaces.

And wouldn’t you know it, in most cases the cart return area was only a few feet away. There were two carts left within an empty parking space immediately adjacent to the cart return. Whoever left those there could have actually pushed them in the direction of the cart return without having to take one step in that direction.

I just don’t understand why someone would be so inconsiderate to just leave their shopping buggies in a parking spot, or even worse between two spaces without returning it to its proper place.

After finding carts littered across the parking lot, I decided to check out some of the other retailers in our fair town to see if the same problem existed in their parking lots. Sure enough I found the same scenario. Shopping carts here, shopping carts there, and shopping carts everywhere.

And have you ever taken notice that if one person leaves their cart in area not designated for their return, others will do the same? It wasn’t that long ago where upon entering a local store, I saw a single cart pushed up against a curb. When I came out of the store, eight more carts were in the same location.

There seems to be a total disregard by these lazy folks for other shoppers as well as the merchants that spend thousands of dollars to maintain their carts in working order. It certainly creates a sense of a lack of self-discipline and it appears there is a lack of community pride by those who think it’s okay to leave a cart where it last suited their needs…in other words, at their vehicle after they unloaded their goods or up the street to their home (for shoppers without motor vehicle transportation).

How hard can it be to simply take the cart that is available for your shopping convenience back to the shopping cart return area?

If everyone would take the time to return a shopping cart to the proper location, stores would incur fewer expenses retrieving and replacing lost carts. Lower expenses incurred by the merchant can lower costs to the consumer.

Returning lost or stolen carts also helps clean up the neighborhood as I have seen shopping carts all over town…. left in yards, beside the roads, in ditches, etc. I do believe some folks are convinced these wheeled devices are put out to be their very own private cart.

Every year, millions of shopping carts are left all over the place and abandoned from their store homes. Carts are found on the side of the road, by schools, random driveways, by railroad tracks, and in sewage ditches. All of these missing carts need to be replaced by the store; and with an average of around $235 per cart, the money damage can add up.

According to Scientific American, there are a number of suggested reasons people don’t make the trip across the lot to bring back their basket on wheels. Some believe the receptacle is simply too far from their spot (also known as laziness), while others blame it on young children who can’t be left unattended or Mother Nature’s untimely downpours.

Then there are people who assume it’s just the store employees’ job to collect the lone carts. Meanwhile, some believe someone else will grab it if they leave it stranded in the lot, making it easier for future shoppers.

All in all, there are many different thoughts traveling through the minds of these customers.

Scientific American placed individuals in various “categories of cart users” based on these lines of thinking. There are the Returners who always bring back their carts no matter what (kudos to you!). On the other hand, there are the Never Returners who always leave their cart somewhere other than the receptacle. In the middle, there are the Convenience Returners (those who are parked nearby or see an attendant); the Pressure Returners (those who would prefer not to face societal guilt), and Child-Driven Returners (whose children want to play a little game of “push the cart into the stacked line”).

According to a study conducted in January of this year by the Baymard Institute, 69.99 percent of shoppers leave their shopping carts adjacent to their vehicle. That number is higher than I expected.

For full disclosure, I’m in the minority of that number. I pride myself in always taking my shopping buggy to the cart return location in the parking lot, no matter how far it is from my vehicle and no matter the weather.

There are some retail outlets / grocery stores that make a customer pay 50 cents to unlock a shopping cart and then refund that money upon its proper return. That would seem to be the easiest way to promote the return of those carts to a certain area….but then there are those who don’t mind losing 50 cents and will leave the cart wherever they desire.

Cal Bryant is the Editor of Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact him at or 252-332-7207.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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